"I am not sure who wrote this, as the only place I was able to find this on the Internet was in a Reddit post by Shmeelkster, so until I am told differently, I am going to credit him/her as the author. Either way, it is a fantastic piece of work and if you ever run accross the need to answer a theists/creationist argument about there being no meaning to life without god, this has my vote for one of the best replies you can give:"
~Al Stefanelli ( http://networkedblogs.com/83zdT )



You are a tiny speck of insignificant biological material in an immense universe that probably defies your brain’s ability of understanding. Yet you are remarkable, in innumerable ways. Every second of every day you are a walking ecosystem of life, housing trillions of microbes that continuously interact with you to keep both you and them alive. Your body is constantly building and rebuilding itself, encoding information on simple strains of molecules at the speed of jet engines, in each and every nucleus-possessing cell in your body. You are a walking, talking, living, breathing orchestra of life, a beautiful display of the potential inherent in our particular universe.

You are the remarkable product of an unbroken, let me say that again, UNBROKEN line of descendants stretching all the way back to the very first interactions of seemingly pointless inanimate molecules. You share a common ancestry with every living thing ever, including the estimated 106 billion humans who have ever lived. You are tied to the trees and the birds and the small phytoplankton that gently ride the crests and dips of the oceans of this world. You are part of the vibrant tapestry of what we refer to as life, a piece of art that stretches back billions upon billions of years. Everything this universe has thrown at you and your ancestors has been roundly defeated – from harsh radiation, to extraterrestrial objects, to volcanic eruptions and more. You are a symbol of utter perseverance, of the sheer will to continue onwards. You are a cry in the dark, the voice of one who will not be quiet.

So now you’ve realized that there is no inherent meaning to existence. So what? This doesn’t mean life has suddenly lost meaning – it means there was no meaning in the first place. So you haven’t actually lost anything. Instead, you have gained a wonderful opportunity. Give existence the meaning it is seeking. MAKE a purpose for yourself. Maybe it should be your kids, or maybe it should be giving from the bounty you have (because let us face reality – if you have an internet connection and personal computer, you are in the top 10%, maybe even the top 1%, of humanity). Maybe you should learn a new skill, explore a new facet of creation that you never realized was open to you.

So why do you teach a toddler how to behave? Because maybe that toddler will be the one to find other life, other existence in our so far lonely universe. Or maybe they will be the father, the mother, the close friend, the lover, the supporter of the one who does. Or maybe they will be the person to speak out at just the right moment, the one to stand up and stand out, who will provide the inspiration, or the moment of connection for the person who does. Or maybe that toddler will be the one to protect the life around us from an otherwise inevitable end, from the sucking void of empty existence that we struggle against every second of our being.

Are you just a breeder? Just biology? What an insult to biology! Just?!? I forgive you, because you know not what you say :D You are the product of a few basic particles, a few basic forces, yet you are impossibly complex, impossibly intricate. The sheer unlikeliness of your very existence is staggering, and yet here you are. The title of “breeder” is just a single facet of what you are. You can be a teacher, a leader, a thinker, a cook, a scientist, an artist, a musician, a protector, an enlightener, a champion, a peacemaker, a lover, a friend, a companion, a confidant… the list is a vast as the seemingly infinite complexities of neuron interactions in the collection of molecular structures known as cells in your brain.

And let us not end our poetic license there, for if all that is true, than this is also: There is something after death. The part of you that continues to exist in all life around you will never cease to be, not as long as things from this planet continue to live. You will continue on, interminably, from the beginning of life to its end potentially countless aeons from now, if ever. Maybe through some fluke you will be the Eve for humanity in the future, the one woman every human will trace their ancestry back to. Maybe not. But who can tell what the future holds. Rather than collapse under the imagined weight of nothingness, I posit that you should grasp hold of your life, and take it to heights heretofore unseen.

Views: 149

Comment by Wesley on September 19, 2010 at 11:39pm
Fantastic... I also came across some good answers to the meaning and purpose questions over on the Atheist Experience site from Tracie..

Comment by willailla on September 20, 2010 at 10:22am
You can't give your life meaning; that's childish. Knowledge of death makes that impossible. We just want to be free from pain. Life sucks for most, and you can't put a smiley face on it unless you're delusional.
Comment by willailla on September 20, 2010 at 11:37am
Neal, you can enjoy life but that's not the same as saying your life has meaning.
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 12:32pm
I can't seem to find an earlier source on Google either.

@Wiilailla: I would take your response to a meaning of life as too narrow.

Meaning : definition
1. Something that is conveyed or signified; sense or significance.
2. Something that one wishes to convey, especially by language
3. An interpreted goal, intent, or end.
4. Inner significance.

I believe that I can hit three out of the four definitions.

2.) I convey my wishes and mind to many through writings and conversations. These writings and conversations have effect on others that may change the direction of their lives and hence are meaningful at times, to some.

3) The goal of my life is to better the life of my family through opportunities and education. The end of my life is not the end of my effect. In fact, the end of my sentient existence is not the end of my being. I will give my body to science, extending the effect of my life for generations. I will donate my organs giving life to one that is either unfulfilled or about to end. The compounds in my body will be exploded again into the universe either aiding another life or becoming a part of an unborn star one day.

4) My life serves my inner significance in protecting other life. Others will use my physical work for hundreds of years past my life. (suspension bridge for example)
Comment by willailla on September 20, 2010 at 1:16pm
Gaytor, I think we're engaging in semantics. By your definition of 'meaning' an oak tree's life has as much meaning as yours or mine. In order for a life to have meaning the universe has to have meaning, but what is it? No one knows, and logic indicates that as far as we're concerned it--like Ol' Man River' just keep rolling along with or without us. I think, to put a finer point on it, we're insignificant, our lives without purpose. That we try to make a purpose and meaning out of our brief sojourn, in order not to feel worthless and depressed, is called 'illusion'. As Poe wrote in a poem, 'All we see or seem to see, is but a dream within a dream.' The meaning you create is an illusion; it may make you happy, like someone piping opium in a Chinese den, but it's not real.

Now, here's sports.
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 1:35pm
An Oak Tree cannot convey it's thoughts, have intent, or inner significance. It is not sentient and doesn't meet the standards of the definitions.

Semantics is disagreeing over meaning of words. So if we are talking about my life having meaning to Sirius the Star, I have to agree with you. If we are talking about our lives having value and impact, I have to disagree with you. Even on the point of the river rolling along, I may end up being a dam buster and allow the life in the river more freedom and the Salmon to run at the ecological potential. From the surface, the river will look the same in most places. But the impact is great nonetheless.

Jonas Salk rid the world of Polio. I would suggest that his life and work had meaning far beyond a semantic point. Did he have an initial purpose, I would agree that he didn't. We could delve into history and find many of these examples, so either you agree or disagree with the point.

Most of our impacts are much smaller than Salk's. I have no illusion as to my effect on the universe. No grandiose ideas about saving the world. I do believe that I will have saved dozens of lives with my life's work, and the lack of credit or knowledge isn't relevant, it's just one step to a better world. Assuming that I didn't save a serial killer. I accept that I'm little more than a cog in the wheel. But the wheel knows the impact of me being a cog.
Comment by willailla on September 20, 2010 at 2:03pm
Comment by Neal 34 minutes ago "My life has no ultimate meaning, but many things in my life mean something to me."

Yes, of course, subjectively, everyone feels that way; it's a religion of sorts finding things to dabble in to keep life interesting. Who doesn't find the mysteries of life fascinating, but it's not our ball game. When you strike out it's over. 'Alas poor Yorich I knew him well.'

Dawkins' we-are-the-purpose is a bit too too like Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar or singing 'We are the world.'

Meaning cannot reside in us because we do not know what the meaning is. All we can do is enjoy, but one has to develop an ability to ignore reality to do so.
Comment by willailla on September 20, 2010 at 2:59pm
I chuckle. I guess we'll have to settle this with pistols--ten paces, turn and fire.

But the oak tree is composed of Democritus' a-toms and has just as much effect on the universe as we. 'Significance' is a subjective term. What makes you think we humans are any more significant than a rock to the universe?

" I may end up being a dam buster and allow the life in the river more freedom and the Salmon to run at the ecological potential. From the surface, the river will look the same in most places. But the impact is great nonetheless."

Galaxies collide, universes are demolished. I doubt 'impact' is the word you're looking for. Salk's vaccine made life more bearable for we humans, but it didn't give meaning to it.

"I do believe that I will have saved dozens of lives with my life's work, and the lack of credit or knowledge isn't relevant. . . it's just one step to a better world "

You assume you make life better. And that is commendable, but you are not giving it meaning. Life, the universe, nature, is indifferent. Nothing anyone does matters in the scheme of things because there is no scheme. Even if you saved a serial killer it wouldn't matter, for you are assuming that what you do is good based upon arbitrary codes of morality, for all we know the serial killer may be as beneficial in nature as the saint, but we are blinded by our subjective reasoning.

"it's just one step to a better world." Here's the problem, as I see it. Your idea of what will make for a better world may not be the same for the guy next to you. A rich man sees slavery as making a better world; a poor man thinks killing the rich man will make for a better world...on and on. And who is the authority who'll make an unbiased judgement? The whole history of the world is a conflict between subjective opinions.

Meaning is subjective. But reality is meaningless.
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 3:16pm
Two points, Scale is certainly our difference here. In order to judge meaning as you are requiring, you virtually would need a god to judge meaning in the face of time and in the scale needed, or there is no meaning. Potentially Gravity, Time and Mass may be the only meaningful factors on your scale. My view (scale) is simply does it have meaning to the human race or even in the circle of those impacted by our lives or even a lasting effect in terms of steps in the right direction.

We might be at a misunderstanding on what I'm saying about say Salk. I'm not saying that the vaccine gave meaning to the lives of all of us, but rather that Salk's life had meaning due his impact. His life found meaning in giving life and health to others. Again, that's subject to scale and accept where you are coming from.
Comment by Allen J. Thoma on September 20, 2010 at 3:52pm
How can we apes, evolved for a middle world (as Dawkins has much more elegantly stated it) contemplate the meaning and/or purpose of the universe and our potential part in it?? We can not yet even answer the easy questions relating to basic physics and biology let alone the more complex questions of emergent consciousness or the ultimate evolution of the universe. Of course we have to give our lives personal meaning to survive! But, to find life meaningless is a failure to grasp the distance we as living matter have come from and to chart a course toward greater knowledge and understanding. As Sagen stated we are star stuff risen to consciousness contemplating itself. We are individually insignificant and as a species but a possible stepping stone to raising all matter to consciousness. (Ramblings from an ape brain!!).


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